Hot Air Balloon Accidents

Sacramento Personal Injury Law Firm Assisting Victims of Hot Air Balloon Accidents Throughout California

A hot air balloon ride can be a unique and exhilarating experience. With its close proximity to the breathtaking Sierra Nevada Mountains, as well as preserves, oak forests, and lakes, Sacramento serves as an ideal departure point for launching a hot air balloon. Due to its sunny weather year-round, temperate climate, and mild winds, Sacramento and surrounding cities offer multiple different hot air balloon tours. Some tours cater towards large groups, taking upwards of 16 passengers per balloon, while others are more geared toward private and often romantic experiences for two or three individuals. Whatever your preference, a hot air balloon ride can be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see breathtaking scenery not visible from land. Unfortunately, with that spectacular view come very real and very dangerous risks.

The hot air balloon was invented in 1783 by the French Montgolfier brothers. Since its inception, hot air ballooning technique has remained largely unchanged. The hot air balloon consists of the balloon itself, which contains heated air, as well as a basket and an open flame with a control on it. The operator of the balloon controls the flame. When hot air fills the balloon, the balloon rises. When the flame is turned down low, the balloon begins to sink. While this seems relatively simple, it is incredibly difficult and dangerous to operate a hot air balloon. Hot air balloons are incredibly susceptible to changes in weather. In addition, in the event of an accident involving the open flame, there is no way to escape the balloon when it is in flight nor is there access to water to put out a fire.

Over the years, various state and federal regulatory agencies began instituting various rules and regulations to encourage safety on board the balloons. For instance, hot air balloons that operate tours or commercial flights are mandated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to undergo a thorough and full inspection once every 100 hours of flight time. If the balloon is not flown commercially, it must be inspected every year. The FAA requires hot air balloon pilots to obtain licenses and undergo a flight review once every two years. The FAA issues commercial licenses to all eligible pilots, and passengers interested in flying with a given pilot can look up his or her safety records on ntsb.org.

Despite these regulations, hot air balloon accidents can and do happen. The National Transportation Safety Board began investigating hot air balloon accidents in 1964. Of the 775 reported accidents that have occurred since then, 70 have caused deaths of passengers. 16 of those deaths occurred in the past 14 years. While this figure may seem low, the number of individuals who fly in hot air balloons each year is also low. In addition, hot air balloon accident fatalities,  Potential accidents can occur due to:

  • Pilot negligence
  • Poor weather conditions
  • Balloon malfunction
  • Power lines
  • Trees
  • Collisions with other balloons
  • Fires
  • Rough landings

If you suffered injuries due to a hot air balloon accident, you may have a viable claim for civil damages from the balloon pilot or operating company. Potential damages include medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and attorney’s fees. While the hot air balloon tour guides would like to convince you that hot air balloon accidents are freak accidents, this is not the case. Most hot air balloon accidents occur due to pilot negligence. Negligence occurs when the pilot fails to exercise the proper level of care when flying the balloon.

If you were injured in a hot air balloon accident, you need a personal injury attorney who is well-versed in Federal Aviation Administration regulations and civil liability law. The Law Offices of Edward Smith has focused solely on personal injury cases since 1993. To discover why our law firm is known as the “personal” personal injury law firm, contact The Law Offices of Edward Smith today to schedule a free initial consultation at (800) 404-5400. Or in Sacramento at 916-921-6400.

The Law Offices of Edward Smith is a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum. This is an association of national personal injury lawyers who have won multiple million dollar verdicts and settlements.

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